Mr. Speaker, as this is the first time on my feet in the 41st Parliament, I will take a moment to thank the great people of Edmonton Centre for trusting me for the third time to be their member of Parliament. I, and we, will not let them down.
I also thank my wife Judy, our children, Jennifer and Robb, and our son-in-law, Jeff for their love and support. I give a special thanks to our 15-month old grandson, Tyler, for being such a little trooper on election night and making his grandpa look good, as good as possible anyway.
Finally, none of us would be here without the hard work and dedication of great volunteers. I was certainly blessed with such a group. None of us would be here without people like that, and I thank them all very much.
Before I go on, let me just say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Nanaimo—Alberni.
It is my pleasure to take part in this important debate on Canada's contribution to the NATO campaign in Libya. I believe that we can all be proud that Canada is at the forefront of an international response to the crises in Libya.
The leadership that Canada continues to demonstrate on the international stage is truly impressive. Increasingly we are positioning ourselves as a go-to country, a country ever more committed to defending human rights and democratic values, a country ever more committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with its allies and partners and a country with the capacity to act.
For three months, Canada has been making critical whole of government contributions to the enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolution 1973. We are helping the international community protect Libyan civilians under threat of attack by a brutal regime. We are effectively enforcing the arms embargo and a no-fly zone over Libya.
The Canadian Forces have been a key component of Canada's engagement in Libya. Operation Mobile is the latest example of our military's ability to respond quickly and effectively to crises and unfolding events around the world. When called upon in reaction to the events in Libya, the Canadian Forces showed impressive readiness.
Within one day of being tasked by the Prime Minister, our navy was able to equip, configure and deploy HMCS Charlottetown to the Mediterranean, complete with an embarked CH-124 Sea King.
Our air force was equally professional in its response to the Canadian decision to participate in the enforcement of UN Security Council resolution 1973. It took mere hours for the men and women of 3 Wing Bagotville to prepare highly complex CF-18 fighter aircraft for deployment overseas, a deployment to a mission almost 7,000 kilometres away. Our CF-18s are providing a vital capability to the NATO-led efforts in Libya, a capability that is necessary for the success of the alliance's campaign.
In addition, our air force is contributing two CP-140 Auroras. These patrol aircraft are conducting critical surveillance and reconnaissance missions along the Libyan coast and are providing precious information to the coalition. The air force has also deployed one CC-150T Polaris and two CC-130T Hercules to Operation Mobile to conduct refuelling operations. They provide millions of litres of fuel to both Canadian and allied aircraft.
Canada's military operations in Libya demonstrate an enduring and proven truth, that the men and women who make up our Canadian armed forces are dedicated, professional and always ready to defend Canada and Canadian interests.
The government has made it a core priority to deliver the capabilities that our soldiers, sailors and air personnel need to provide this excellent service. For the Canadian Forces to have the ability to act quickly and effectively, they must be well equipped and the members well trained and motivated at all times.
Canadians expect our military to be able to provide a unique capability. They expect our military to be ready to respond to crisis situations, either at home or around the world, with the necessary personnel, equipment and expertise.
This is why the Canadian government introduced the Canada first defence strategy in 2008. The Canada first defence strategy is a solid plan to modernize our military. It is a plan to make the right investments in the right mix of capabilities. It is our investment in the strategy that allows the level of readiness we have seen in the Canadian Forces response to the crisis in Libya. It is our investment in our Canadian Forces that enables a timely deployment of our assets where they are needed, whether at home or abroad.
By continuing to implement the Canada first defence strategy, we will ensure that the Canadian Forces can continue to demonstrate leadership abroad, that Canada continues to be a reliable ally and that we can continue to assume our duty when crises erupt, as we are doing right now in Libya.
We have already achieved great progress in the delivery of the Canada first defence strategy with solid investments across the four pillars that underpin military capabilities: equipment, infrastructure, personnel and readiness.
Over the past years, the government has invested in defence infrastructure development and renewal, new hangars, runways, housing units and medical facilities that are absolutely critical to the functioning of a modern military. Our men and women in uniform need the proper installations for research, development, training and maintenance of equipment.
We will continue to make these necessary investments as we strive toward our objective to replace or refurbish 50% of the existing defence infrastructure over a 20-year period. That is an awful lot of infrastructure.
At the same time, we are also investing in the Canadian Forces' most important asset: our people. We are fortunate to have such a highly dedicated and professional force. We ask much of our men and women in uniform and we have a responsibility to provide them with the necessary support.
We have taken many new measures to enhance care and support for serving members. For example, this winter the Minister of National Defence announced the launch of phase three of the Joint Personnel Support Unit with the opening of five new integrated personnel support centres. These centres provide a one-stop service for ill and injured Canadian Forces personnel, former personnel, their families and families of the deceased.
Last fall, the minister also announced new measures to address some of the needs of the Canadian Forces personnel who have suffered serious injuries in Afghanistan. These measures, amounting to $52.5 million over five years, will help us honour the sailors, soldiers and air personnel who have sacrificed so much for our country by establishing a legacy of care. We are also investing $140 million in a health information system that will help improve the care available to service personnel who need it.
Importantly, the government is also delivering on its commitment to renew core equipment capabilities of the Canadian Forces. In July 2009, the government announced that it would purchase new and upgraded existing land combat vehicles for the army. Replacing and upgrading these vehicles is essential to maintain the Canadian Forces' ability to effectively and successfully conduct the missions we ask them to undertake.
In renewing core capabilities, we also take advantage of emerging technologies that can further reduce the risks to our soldiers by offering them a higher level of protection. The upgrading of the light armoured vehicle III, as well as the acquisition of the tactical armoured patrol vehicle, the close combat vehicle and other vehicles improving force mobility are proceeding as planned.
We are pursuing a national shipbuilding procurement strategy under which the new joint support ships and Arctic offshore patrol ships will be built. We will also launch the definition phase for the Canadian surface combatant project, which will renew the navy's surface fleet by replacing our destroyers and frigates. These ships are essential to ensuring that the navy can continue to monitor and defend Canadian waters and make significant contributions to international naval operations.
We are also making great strides with the renewal of Canadian Forces' aerospace capabilities. We started to take delivery of our new fleet of CC-130J Hercules transport aircraft last year. The new aircraft is already a key contributor to military operations both at home and abroad. We are acquiring 15 F model Chinook helicopters, an aircraft that will become a crucial asset serving across the spectrum of Canadian Forces' operations.
Last year, we took delivery of the final updated CF-18 fighter aircraft, ensuring the extension of the fighter's life until the 2020 timeframe. The CF-18 modernization was essential to sustain the Canadian Forces' modern and interoperable fighter fleet.
To maintain our fighter capability beyond the 2020 timeframe, we will acquire our next generation fighter aircraft, the F-35 Lightning II. This will enable the air force to continue to operate effectively in the evolving security environment of the 21st century until well past 2050. Canada requires a fighter capability to defend the sovereignty of Canadian airspace, to remain a strong and reliable partner in the defence of North America through NORAD and to ensure interoperability with key allies as part of international operations.
The current operations in Libya are the clearest demonstration of the need for a strong fighter capability, a fighter capability that allows the Canadian Forces to operate alongside our allies in NATO operations and a fighter capability that allows our military to continue to be a leader on the world stage.
The Canadian Forces are well equipped and well trained to make important contributions to the international efforts such as those in Libya. The government will continue to make the necessary investments in our military's capabilities in accordance with the tenets of the Canada first defence strategy. We will ensure that our men and women in uniform can continue to help build international peace and security like they are doing in Libya as we speak.
Sustaining our participation in NATO's operations will continue to demonstrate Canada's leadership, our commitment to NATO and our reliability as an ally and partner. I encourage parliamentarians to support the extension of the Canadian Forces' Operation Mobile and I am pleased to hear the general support I have heard today in Parliament.